Your South African Winery Hit List

To discover the best wines, know the regions to look for and what to drink now.

The South African wine industry prides itself on the wide range of varieties and styles produced within the country today. In fact, one of the marketing campaign slogans from Wines of South Africa—the industry organization that represents exporters of South African wines and promotes them abroad—is “variety is in our nature.” It aims to highlight the breadth and diversity of the country’s vinous offerings available to thirsty consumers.

That variety is one of the most exciting and attractive things about South African wine. There’s always something new to try, and no matter what your favorite wine type or preferred grape is, chances are you’ll find stellar examples from this country. Unfortunately, it’s also one of South Africa’s pitfalls. The varied options are often lost on consumers since there aren’t fixed associations pertaining to specific wines—think Northern Rhône for Syrah, New Zealand for Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux and its bank-specific blends, or style-specific regions like Champagne and Cava. Aside from Pinotage and Chenin Blanc (which is shared with other regions), there aren’t strongly established connections to the country through a particular grape variety or wine style.

When producing almost everything, it’s difficult to be top-of-mind for anything. But it also makes the country prime for discovery.

When producing almost everything, it’s difficult to be top-of-mind for anything. But it also makes the country prime for discovery, with countless opportunities to wow people with the underappreciated quality and value on offer.

Wines from South Africa are reliable go-tos for people wanting options outside of conventional norms. Tired of Cornas price tags? Consider a Franschhoek Syrah instead. Want to shop outside of New Zealand for a killer Sauvignon Blanc? Check out a selection from Cape Peninsula (formerly Cape Point) or Cape Agulhas. Bordeaux allocations not working to your advantage? There are amazing Bordeaux-style blends produced in Stellenbosch. Looking for a sparkling wine that will impress at your next party? Don’t miss South Africa’s traditional Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) bubblies.

There are so many delicious options to enjoy, and tasting a few stellar bottles—especially those from some of the top regions listed to the right—will guarantee that South Africa stays front of mind for your next wine shopping excursion.

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The Hit List

Seek out some of South Africa’s trendiest selections by keeping your eyes on these regions and the wines that make them shine.

Swartland

The Swartland Revolution might be officially over after six years of successful events and tastings, but there’s still plenty of life left to this rustic, wildcard region. Check out the Pinotage, Chenin and Syrah-based wines from other Swartland Independent Producers (SIP) like Lammershoek and Testalonga. Wineries like Doran, Spice Route and Riebeek Cellars also have stellar selections beyond the firmly established regional revolutionaries (Badenhorst, Mullineux, Porseleinberg and Sadie Family).

Elgin

Situated on an inland plateau surrounded by mountains and only miles from the Atlantic Ocean, this high-altitude region benefits from cooler, more temperate conditions than many other regions of South Africa. The result? Classy wines of elegance and finesse. Don’t miss the world-class Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from Iona, Lothian, Neil Ellis and Paul Cluver.

Robertson

While you can find lots of varietal wines produced at a range of prices from this large W.O. (Wine of Origin)—especially the lineups from Robertson Winery and Excelsior—Chardonnay is king, both for still and traditional sparkling (MCC) wines. The Chardonnays from De Wetshof are some of the most beautiful wines around, and Springfield Estate’s Wild Yeast Chardonnay is worth the hunt. Graham Beck leads the sparkling pack.

Published on March 7, 2016
Topics: Travel Guides, Wine Recommendations
About the Author
Lauren Buzzeo
Managing Editor, Print, and Tasting Director

Reviews wines from South Africa and Languedoc-Roussillon. Reviews beers.

Buzzeo joined Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2006 as a tasting coordinator, and eventually became Tasting Director and Senior Editor, responsible for overseeing all aspects of the tasting and review program. Most recently, Buzzeo assumed the role of Managing Editor. Since coming to Wine Enthusiast, she has made it one of her personal missions to promote the acceptance of cross-drinking, encouraging everyone to embrace finely crafted libations across all beverage categories. Buzzeo is also an avid homebrewer and a member of the AHA (American Homebrewers Association). Email: lbuzzeo@wineenthusiast.net.




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